My First Day at OBV


The tube finally arrived at Bethnal Green station. I looked down at my watch, 09:59. Only one minute to dash out of this station, through the park square. It was the start of my first day at Operation Black Vote, and I did not want to be late. I dashed to OBV headquarters and as I stepped inside I reflected on how I ended up here in the first place. A couple of months earlier I was temping for 4 days as a receptionist for another organisation in the same building OBV is housed. The regular receptionist broke her ankle on holiday, poor thing. Hence how I met the newly knighted director and founder of OBV Sir Simon Woolley and OBV’s deputy director Ashok Viswanathan.

I walked through a hallway where I was greeted by Simon. He has a good handshake, gentle but firm. Moments later I reintroduced myself to the Operation Black Vote team and I was shown around the systems for my new role, I figured it would be a quiet first day to ease me into things. As I took notes I was told Simon was due to go to Westminster for an event celebrating the national Windrush Day and Simon wanted to bring me along; so much for a quiet first day.

We arrived at Westminster at noon to enter the Houses of Parliament building. As we queued outside I realised two things. Firstly, I’m a Londoner born and bred I’d never been inside the Houses of Parliament. Secondly, I was going to the Houses of Parliament for the first time in my life, and my shirt wasn’t tucked in. I swiftly tucked in my shirt, got my visitors pass and checked through security. A guide gathered the assembled visitors to lead when lo and behold, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP David Lammy casually join our group. I watched in quiet awe as Simon Jeremy Corbyn and David Lammy posed together for photos. I focused on maintaining a professional demeanour with a polite smile and nod; best play it cool on my first day.

Our group were escorted to the Speaker’s House for the Windrush event to begin. I snapped a few photos while Simon mingled with the assembled guests and speakers. Jeremy Corbyn and David Lammy spoke a few words, and then Simon Woolley stepped up to speak. Simon used his time to share his platform with others as he acknowledged their efforts in the pursuit of justice and equality. Baroness Floella Benjamin gave an engrossing speech of the pride she feels by embracing her heritage, pride she wants others to feel. I’m ashamed to admit I got slightly distracted by the sudden appearance of Home Secretary Sajid Javid. He quietly snuck in through the kitchen and was now stood two feet away from me. Nonetheless I returned my attention to Baroness Benjamin and took the time to appreciate this moment.

We were all here to celebrate the Windrush generation and their descendants. It took a grave injustice to bring these people into the spotlight, but now they have the time to share their stories. Now they can be honoured for the part they played in rebuilding this United Kingdom we call home, because their story gave way to stories from new generations. Each story told is a life, shared with people’s knowledge and hopes. Now is the time to remember that no matter who we are or what we are, our stories are worth being told.

Seyi Odusanya